Monday, September 04, 2006

San Diego: Last Day


This was our last day in San Diego, so we decided to take it a little easier. Breakfast in our suite, then off to nearby Balboa Park for a day of exploration. First up, a trip to the world famous San Diego Zoo.

We went here a while back, and had a great time, but were exhausted. This time, we did it right: a tour of the amazingly large park by double decker bus. Sure, it was an incredibly long wait for the bus, and they managed to only stop for a maximum of 5 seconds at any exhibit, but with a park this large, that varies by hundreds of feet up and down, it's really the only way to get a sense of the size.

After viewing the giraffes (including the baby one; cute!), we headed to a long skyborne ride with their gondola, giving us views of the whole park, and even the disconcerting sight of seemingly being higher than the approaching airliners. A relaxing ride later, as well as a visit to the hummingbird aviary (no hummingbirds to be seen, of course), and we were done with the Zoo.

Next, back to Balboa Park. First stop, the Botanical Building, with it's amazing collection of exotic flowers and plants. The scale of this place is simply immense, and the variety of fauna is dazzling. From palm trees with fronds so large, they could be the roof of a house, to delicate orchids that look like they would shatter upon being touched, the place is astounding.

Sure, in San Francisco, we have the Conservatory, but this is all open-air, with thousands of slats in the open roof. It gives a hushed quality to the place, where everyone is simply drinking in the atmosphere. One of my favorites? The garden of aromas, where they encourage you to rub the leaves of certain plants and smell the effects. They practically replicate food!

After reluctantly tearing ourselves away, we headed out into the gardens, then over to the main plaza for a little lunch. We had wanted to dine at an open air café we had seen, but they closed. We settled on the Prado at Balboa Park; I won't do a full review, but this was a remarkably unexpected pleasure. Hummus and flatbread served at every table; excellent entrees, and delicious drinks, all served on a patio with elegance and style. Very surprising for what we expected to be a tourist trap. Sure, owned by the same people as the Dakota, but surprising nonetheless.

Finally, in the shadow of the Museum of Man, we headed to the San Diego Museum of Art, to see the Andy Warhol exhibition. I've never been much of a fan of modern art, and I've never "got" Warhol; I can honestly say that, while the exhibit was impressive and I learned much about this odd man, I still don’t get it. I do have an appreciation for what he was trying to do, but I can't say that reprinting 10 silkscreens of Chairman Mao's face in different color schemes, with a squiggle here or there, is any great statement. I was impressed with his Great Jews of the 20th Century series, and some of the 1980's commentary on excess (complete with sprinkling diamond dust into the wet paint to show the excess). Overall, interesting, but still beyond me.

And this concluded our 3 days in the sun. An hour flight back home, and we relaxed, enjoying the time spent. Thanks for putting up with the travelogue!

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